Cotts returns to game action

Yu Darvish made his live game action debut on Friday while left-hander Neal Cotts pitched in his first game since 2009. TheSportsXChange has notes from the Rangers' first intrasquad game of the spring.

Yu Darvish faced major league hitters for the first time on March 2, and the verdict really depended on the perspective.

Batters tended to hold the 21-pitch inning in high esteem. Folks with a pitching background suggested that the work was really only beginning. Darvish fell behind two of the four batters he faced 3-and-0 and also ran up two full counts. In both full-count situations, against second baseman Ian Kinsler and shortstop Elvis Andrus, Darvish was able to make his pitches. He got Kinsler to fly out to left field on a nasty slider and got Andrus to chase a nearly unhittable fastball down and away.

"I don't think we saw the best of him today," pitching coach Mike Maddux said. "I'm sure he's happy to have that behind him."

When asked by a Japanese reporter how close he was to being ready for the start of the season, Darvish replied: "Not close. Not close at all."

Darvish's first spring start was scheduled for March 7 against San Diego at Peoria. He was expected to throw about 40 pitches over two innings. He is pitching the fourth game of spring, but manager Ron Washington urged reporters not to take where he starts in the spring rotation into a consideration of his role.

Washington still expects to split up his two left-handed starters, Derek Holland (who will likely pitch second) and Matt Harrison (who will likely move to the fourth spot).

Rangers Notes & Quotes

  • Manager Ron Washington maintains that the center field job is wide open and said he isn't ruling out the possibility of OF Josh Hamilton being the primary center fielder in 2012. OFs Craig Gentry, Julio Borbon and Leonys Martin are competing for the spot. Washington, however, could opt to play Hamilton in center and start David Murphy in left. The Rangers did that against most right-handed pitchers for the stretch run in 2011 and in the playoffs.

  • 3B Adrian Beltre and OF Nelson Cruz, both of whom dealt with multiple lower extremity-muscle strains in 2011, both are being brought along slowly in running drills. The players have been urged to take it easy on the bases to start camp. They are also involved in a special running program with strength and conditioning coach Jose Vazquez.

  • LHP Neal Cotts, who hasn't pitched since 2009, is getting some attention from Rangers coaches even though he is in the minor league camp. He pitched an inning in Friday's intrasquad game and pitching coach Mike Maddux said he expects to see more of Cotts in exhibitions this spring.

  • LHP Joe Beimel (elbow stiffness) missed the first week of full-squad workouts. Beimel had elbow inflammation last year with Pittsburgh and missed six weeks before being released, but he said that what sidelined him this time was significantly minor and not related.

  • OF Jairo Beras and the Rangers agreed to a contract that includes a $4.5 million bonus. There is, however, a discrepancy over whether the Dominican Republic teenager is 17 and eligible to sign or 16 and must wait until July 2, when all teams will have a $2.9 million budget.

  • By the Numbers: 127 – Total in millions of dollars for the Rangers' payroll in 2012. The Rangers finished off their payroll by signing 21 pre-arbitration players to contracts in the week before exhibitions. The figure represents the highest payroll in team history, by more than $20 million.

  • Quote to Note: "It might add another hurdle, but I'd rather have that hurdle than have to go home." -- Manager Ron Washington on the possibility of the Rangers having to play a third round of AL playoffs in order to advance to their third consecutive World Series this season.

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